The 49507 Project Mural: “Flight”
Updated: Aug 2
The 49507 project seems so radical, it took me some time to get used to talk freely about racism, segregation, gentrification, etc without having to “tone it down” but that is precisely the requirement to be part of it; afterall, the Diatribe is behind it.
Last year, when The Diatribe approached me about painting a mural, I felt honored but, then I saw the wall and felt truly intimidated. This is a 40x20 ft corrugated metal wall that even if I painted it in one solid color, it felt that it was going to take me for ever. And sure enough, I ran into all kinds of technical difficulties, and through several posca markers two rolls of frog tape, 4 gallons of paint and like 20 cans of spraypaint. It is so difficult to paint straight lines on a wavy surface.
Before we even started daydreaming about our future creations, all the artists involved had to attend 11 Community listening sessions where we met virtually with community members, students, other artists, etc, this; gave us great insight into the needs, wants and concerns of the neighborhood.
During the listening sessions I wrote key words that kept showing up; racism, segregation, gentrification, oppression, redlining, lack of resources in the neighborhood, etc, but also positive words like barbecues, culture, the hope for a better future, diversity, unity, music, community, COLOR.
I began researching and learned about the 1930's HOLC map and the origins of redlining in the US. The color coding on the original map are the colors I used for the background. They reflect a racist past, our struggle to leave it behind, the need to build an intentional present while looking forward to a better future.
The mural is about, redlining, racism, gentrification, but it's also about the resilience of our communities, and our capacity to overcome and celebrate.
Here’s a breakdown:
Colors: represent segregation as a systemic issue, here I tried to blend them under the map of the area.
Houses, buildings: traditional neighborhood on the background and modern condos in the foreground, these structures morph into a playground.
Skeleton: represents our culture.
Birds: reverse white flight, gentrification.
The chihuahua puppy was the only request by the owners.
I love how the shop owners completed the mural by placing a bunch of flowers at the bottom. They were the best hosts and incredible appreciative of the work I did.
On a heartbreaking side note; Coco, their adorable chihuahua puppy was stolen on the same day I completed the mural.
The mural is located at Cisneros Tire Service. 800 S Division, Grand Rapids, Michigan